Pursue or not to pursue? Illegal ATV and dirt bike riders raise debate on no-chase policies

- It is a challenge police departments face daily – how to prevent people from illegally driving all-terrain vehicles and dirt bikes on city streets and sidewalks. It is especially difficult in some areas because of strict no-chase policies for police.

Over a week ago, a group of riders was spotted crossing the Key Bridge into Arlington.

“The riders are not paying attention to any jurisdictional boundaries. They are just going,” said Arlington County Police Deputy Chief Daniel Murray.

He said as the weather gets warmer, expect more ATV and dirt bike riders heating up the roadways with dangerous maneuvers, which often place drivers, passengers and pedestrians in danger and daring police to pursue them.

“A real problem is how do we not make things [less safe], and if we get involved in a pursuit frequently, that is going to cause more danger for the community,” said Murray.

Pursuit policies vary by police department. Arlington County police said their policy is a judgment call in most cases.

“We are going to very, very strictly evaluate and see what particular danger is being caused and make sure under no circumstances do we enhance that danger,” said Deputy Chief Murray.

“I don't think they should pursue them, but they should take pictures or something and get them later because they are going to endanger everyone else in that area if they chase them,” said Crystal Yates.

She said she was driving Friday night near Silver Hill Road and Pennsylvania Avenue in District Heights, Maryland, when she was surrounded by more than a dozen dirt bike riders.

“It's nerve wrecking,” Yates said. “They need to do something about it. Somebody needs to do something about it.”

She added, “I was just careful not to hit them because there was a lot of them.”

“There needs to be some sort of action taken other than letting them freely disobey traffic laws and everything like that,” said pedestrian Kristen Weller.

Deputy Chief Murray said there is a way drivers can fight back.

“If it is safe to call and you have hands-free operations, call 911 because we want to know about it,” he said.

Police also said you can pull over to safety and take a picture or record video and send it to them, which will help them prosecute these cases.

In other jurisdictions, police in the District have a no-chase policy. Authorities in Montgomery County in Maryland said that they will only pursue if the rider appears intoxicated or have committed a very serious crime. In Prince George's County, officials said they will only pursue if the rider is wanted for homicide or a carjacking.

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